US iso­lated on cli­mate at sum­mit

De­spite Trump’s ‘Amer­ica first’ rhetoric and with­drawal from the Paris Agree­ment, the G19 lead­ers move for­ward with­out the su­per­power

CityPress - - News -

Lead­ers from the world’s top economies broke with US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on cli­mate pol­icy at a G20 sum­mit yes­ter­day, in a rare pub­lic ad­mis­sion of dis­agree­ment and a blow to mul­ti­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion. Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel, keen to show off her skills as a me­di­a­tor two months be­fore a Ger­man elec­tion, achieved her pri­mary goal at the meet­ing in Ham­burg, con­vinc­ing her fel­low lead­ers to sup­port a single com­mu­nique with pledges on trade, fi­nance, en­ergy and Africa.

But the di­vide be­tween Trump, elected on a pledge to put “Amer­ica first”, and the 19 other mem­bers of the club, in­clud­ing coun­tries as di­verse as Ja­pan, Saudi Ara­bia and Ar­gentina, was stark.

Last month, Trump an­nounced he was pulling the US out of a landmark in­ter­na­tional cli­mate ac­cord clinched two years ago in Paris.

“In the end, the ne­go­ti­a­tions on cli­mate re­flect dis­sent – all against the United States of Amer­ica,” Merkel told re­porters at the end of the meet­ing.

“And the fact that ne­go­ti­a­tions on trade were ex­traor­di­nar­ily dif­fi­cult is due to spe­cific po­si­tions that the US has taken.”

The sum­mit, marred by vi­o­lent protests that left the streets of Ham­burg lit­tered with burn­ing cars and bro­ken shop win­dows, brought to­gether a volatile mix of lead­ers at a time of ma­jor change in the global geopo­lit­i­cal land­scape.

Trump’s shift to a more uni­lat­eral, trans­ac­tional diplomacy has left a void in global lead­er­ship, un­set­tling tra­di­tional al­lies in Europe and open­ing the door to ris­ing pow­ers such as China to as­sume a big­ger role.

Ten­sions be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Beijing dom­i­nated the run-up to the meet­ing, with the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion ratch­et­ing up pres­sure on Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping to rein in North Korea and threat­en­ing puni­tive trade mea­sures on steel.

Trump met Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin for the first time in Ham­burg, a hotly an­tic­i­pated en­counter af­ter the for­mer real es­tate mogul promised a rap­proche­ment with Moscow dur­ing his cam­paign, only to be thwarted by ac­cu­sa­tions of Rus­sian med­dling in the US pres­i­den­tial vote and in­ves­ti­ga­tions into Rus­sian ties by Trump as­so­ciates.

Putin said at the con­clu­sion of the sum­mit that Trump had quizzed him on the al­leged med­dling in a meet­ing that lasted for more than two hours, but he seemed to have been sat­is­fied with the Krem­lin leader’s de­nials of in­ter­fer­ence.

Trump had ac­cused Rus­sia of desta­bil­is­ing be­hav­iour in Ukraine and Syria be­fore the sum­mit. But in Ham­burg, he struck a con­cil­ia­tory tone, de­scrib­ing it as an hon­our to meet Putin and sig­nalling, through Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son, that he pre­ferred to fo­cus on fu­ture ties and not dwell on the past.

“It was an ex­traor­di­nar­ily im­por­tant meet­ing,” Tiller­son said, de­scrib­ing a “very clear pos­i­tive chem­istry” be­tween the two lead­ers.

In the fi­nal com­mu­nique, the 19 other lead­ers took note of the US’s de­ci­sion to with­draw from the Paris cli­mate ac­cord and de­clared it “ir­re­versible”.

For its part, the US in­jected a con­tentious line, say­ing that it would “en­deav­our to work closely with other coun­tries to help them ac­cess and use fos­sil fu­els more cleanly and ef­fi­ciently”.

Newly elected French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron led a push to soften the US lan­guage.

“There is a clear con­sen­sus ab­sent in the US,” said Thomas Bernes, a distin­guished fel­low at the Cen­tre for In­ter­na­tional Gov­er­nance In­no­va­tion.

“But that is a prob­lem. With­out the largest econ­omy in the world, how far can you go?”

Jen­nifer Morgan, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Green­peace In­ter­na­tional, said the G19 had “held the line” against Trump’s “back­wards de­ci­sion” to with­draw from the Paris Agree­ment.

On trade, an­other stick­ing point, the lead­ers agreed they would “fight pro­tec­tion­ism in­clud­ing all un­fair trade prac­tices and recog­nise the role of le­git­i­mate trade de­fence in­stru­ments in this re­gard”.

The lead­ers also pledged to work to­gether to fos­ter eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment in Africa, a pri­or­ity pro­ject for Merkel.

Merkel chose to host the sum­mit in Ham­burg, the port city where she was born, to send a sig­nal about Ger­many’s open­ness to the world, in­clud­ing its tol­er­ance of peace­ful protests.

It was held only a few hun­dred me­tres from one of Ger­many’s most po­tent sym­bols of left-wing re­sis­tance, a for­mer the­atre called the Rote Flora, which was taken over by anti-cap­i­tal­ist squat­ters nearly three decades ago.

Since Thurs­day, as many as 100 000 peo­ple have staged peace­ful demon­stra­tions at the meet­ing, but rad­i­cals looted shops, and torched cars and trucks. More than 200 mem­bers of the po­lice were in­jured and about 143 peo­ple were ar­rested, 122 of whom were taken into cus­tody.

Some of the worst dam­age was done as Merkel hosted other lead­ers at a con­cert and lav­ish din­ner at the Elbphil­har­monie, a mod­ernist glass con­cert hall over­look­ing the Elbe River. Merkel said: “I have full u nder­stand­ing for peace­ful protest, but vi­o­lent demon­stra­tions are a threat to hu­man life. It is not ac­cept­able.”

She met po­lice and se­cu­rity forces af­ter the sum­mit to thank them, and con­demned the “un­bri­dled bru­tal­ity” of some of the pro­test­ers, but she was forced to an­swer tough ques­tions about host­ing the sum­mit in Ham­burg dur­ing her clos­ing press con­fer­ence.

– Reuters

PHOTO: REUTERS / ALEX SCH­MIDT

FLOWER POWER World lead­ers at­tend the G20 sum­mit din­ner in Ham­burg, Ger­many

PHOTO: REUTERS / FABRIZIO BENSCH

NOT A FAN A pro­tester weilds a wooden plank dur­ing demon­stra­tions at the G20 sum­mit in Ger­many on Fri­day

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